Problem: My Adult Dog Growls At Me When I Stare At Him

When you adopt or gain custody of an adult dog, there are many important items that you need to be aware of. It's not like getting a puppy that is brand new to the world and accepts everything with enthusiasm. Adult dogs are a bit more stubborn when it comes to joining your “pack” and learning his role in the family. And of course this dog's history may include some negative dog training or abuse.

One complaint that new adult dog owners have had is growling then they make eye contact with the dog. At first you may think that this is normal or will pass, but the fact is that this is a form of aggression, and it could turn out to be worse if the staring continues. So what is this behavior all about? Where does growling with eye contact come from with adult dogs?

Eye contact is a form of communication between dogs. When aggressive puppies are very young they learn that they can easily stare down their more submissive brothers and sisters. As they mature, if two aggressive male dogs meet, they often challenge each other's dominance by staring at each other. If one dog doesn't back down, the staring match will end in a fight. A naturally aggressive dog that hasn't been obedience-trained may try not to make eye contact with a person to avoid a confrontation. But if eye contact does occur it will attempt to dominate its owner by staring him down.

Below are a few ways in which you can help treat the situation:

  1. If an adopted older dog shows signs of aggression by staring at you in a challenging way, drop your eyes. This is not a cop-out, but a way to avoid a confrontation until you can deal properly with the dog's aggression.

  2. Immediately take a dog that shows aggression to a well-established trainer who will help you teach the dog obedience and at the same time show you how to establish a leadership role with your pet.

  3. Once you have begun to train the dog, don't allow it to challenge your authority.

  4. Don't deliberately challenge any aggressive dog by looking it directly in the eyes, whether the animal belongs to you or not. The old theory that you should "stare down" an aggressive dog probably led to a lot of dog bites.

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